Grace in the Midst of Missteps

by Jo-Ann Van Reeuwyk with Becca Brasser, Shanna Pargellis, Frency Frans, Livy Fusta, Emily Terpstra, and Glenda Hicks

“The quality of human life on our planet is nothing more than the sum total of our daily interactions with one another”  (Tutu 4).

Observing Forgiveness Routines

As we listened and asked questions at the schools we visited, what emerged as a practice that seems integral in providing Sacred Space Pedagogy is what Mustard Seed has termed “forgiveness routines.” We discovered elements of these types of routines in many of the schools. While several of the teachers had some vocabulary to describe these, Becca Brasser and Shanna Pargellis articulated it this way:

To see mistakes as opportunities for learning is a skill that teachers at Mustard Seed try to model and to encourage children to develop. Mistakes in relationships, mistakes in artwork, mistakes in writing—all of these can be seen as opportunities for growth and forward movement, rather than proof of failure.

To be able to acknowledge and forgive mistakes is an essential skill for members of any community and one that children and teachers at Mustard Seed practice throughout the year. Children of all ages can be observed making apologies, forgiving, and making amends for mistakes that are made. Teachers also participate in this routine and serve as the model for children to follow as broken relationships (between teachers, as well as between teachers and children) are mended and problems are resolved.

Teaching Forgiveness Routines

Beginning at the preschool level, students are taught how to say they are sorry and how to forgive. The offender needs to take responsibility for the offense, and we find there are key parts to the apology that we can teach at this age. First of all, the offender needs to say the name of the student who was hurt and look them in the eye. This acknowledges the humanity of the child and our connection to each other as members of a community. Next, the offender says that he or she is sorry and states clearly the offense. This shows a willingness to admit to the negative behavior and to having done wrong. Truth is told, and the offender is fully aware of the offense. Then comes the request: ‘Will you forgive me?’

At this point, the offended student has the power to say yes or no. We encourage students to respond with, ‘I forgive you,’ not ‘It’s OK.’ The offense was not OK even though grace is being granted. Saying ‘I forgive you’ helps us all understand the importance of that reality and that it means it is over; this will not be revisited or carried by the offended as a grudge. Anger is released and both students are freed to move on. [This is only part of the article. Want to read more? Subscribe to the website by choosing "Register" from the menu above. It's free!]

Works Cited

Smith, David I., and Susan M. Felch. Teaching and the Christian Imagination. Eerdmans, 2016. Print.

Tutu, Desmond, and Mpho Tutu. The Book of Forgiving. HarperCollins, 2014. Print.